Treetops Smith Signature Course

Rick Smiths' First Championship Course

With tremendous panoramic vistas it's no wonder it's a favorite for resort guests

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Treetops Smith Signature Course

What You Need to Know

    • Course Info Treetops Resort Golf comprises five golf courses.  Four eighteen hole golf courses – Premier by Tom Fazio, Signature and Tradition by Rick Smith  and Masterpiece by Robert Trent Jones, Sr; and one 9-hole par3 course – Threetops.  All courses are open to the public
    • Fees: All courses are less than $100.
    • Yardage: Signature has five sets of tees from 4604 yards to 6285 yards (71.0/139) to 6653 yards (72.9/140).
    • Location – Northern Michigan in the town of Gaylord, seventy miles east of Traverse City and four hours north of Detroit.
    • Practice Area –  Large two tiered grass practice range.
    • Lodging Treetops Resort Golf has a variety of accommodations including The Inn, The Lodge and The Jones Cottage.

There are five good reasons passionate golfers head to Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan.  Home to five of the best Michigan courses over 1500 acres it’s a popular Midwest destination.  Seven times Golf Magazine awarded Treetops Resort their Silver Medal Award as one of the finest resorts in the United States.

In the winter, it’s a fantastic ski resort, with groomed ski runs, many cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. During the summer, it’s a family destination resort.

It all started in 1954 when the grandfather of Gaylord downhill skiing, Ouellette “Lin” Meade opened the Sylvan Knob Ski Area.  When Harry Melling, owner of a tool company in Michigan, purchased the Sylvan Knob Ski Area in 1983, he wanted to run a ski resort.  After expanding the resort with larger restaurants and accommodations, Harry had a grander plan.  For a successful business, he needed to keep the resort open year round.  He was to dive headfirst into the golf business. Melling hired the most prolific and respected golf course architect in the twentieth century, Robert Trent Jones, Sr. to build the first course.

Over four hundred and fifty golf courses name Robert Trent Jones, Sr. as the principal architect.  After their first tour of the site together, then stood on a hill with a view of the Pigeon River Valley on what is now the sixth tee of the Masterpiece Course.  Observing the grandeur of the expansive view above the treeline, Jones had the immediate suggestion to change the name of the resort from Sylvan Nob to Treetops Resort.  Melling was ecstatic.  Treetops Resort was born.

Treetops is a full service resort.  Besides the golf, you can head to the Spa, do some mountain-biking, fly-fishing or go on a horseback ride. At all Treetops facilities, the service, merchandise, and amenities are all excellent.  Treetops Resort offers a variety of room accommodations, including standard lodging just a short walk from our three restaurants. Or groups can stay in the Jones Cottage or one of many condos or chalets.

The first course built was the Jones Masterpiece course next to the main Treetops Resort.   The other four courses are Smith Signature, Smith Tradition, Fazio Premier and the outstanding Par4 course Threetops.  They are on a single parcel five miles to the north of the resort called Treetops North.

Treetops Smith Signature Course

The Smith Signature is the second 18 hole course at Treetops Resort.  Designed by Rick Smith, known first as a prominent PGA Tour coach whose clients included Phil Mickelson.   After completing the revered Threetops Par 3 course, he went about building his first championship 18-hole course.

Smith carved his course through thick hilly forest and isolates each hole. From elevated teeing grounds the sweeping vistas of maple, spruce and beech trees are fabulous.  I’m told it’s the locals’ favorite of the four courses partially because of the tremendous views stretching for many miles.  It’s also the most photographed.

His fairways are generous and oddly shaped.   Hence, careful placement of the drive is helpful as there are certain green approach angles that are more favorable.  But errant drives into the trees will be difficult to find and impossible to play.  They locate some fairway bunkers for the aesthetics only, as they would rarely come into play.  But most are strategically placed even in the middle of the fairway.

They usually create multiple tiers on the greens creating separate sections.  If you’re in the wrong section, two putting is not automatic.  Hence the greens play smaller.

The ninth hole does not return to the clubhouse.  But a well-stocked halfway house is just to the right of the tenth fairway.

Hole Highlights

On the third, a 443 yard par 4, players tee off high overlooking an expansive fairway with two lateral bunkers that pinch the fairway.  A forced carry (with a yardage depending on the tee selected) keeps your attention. The green slopes away and is difficult to hold.

The sixth fairway incorporates a bunker in the center of the fairway on this 503 yard par 5 which changes the nature of this hole. With bunkers on both sides of the fairway, driving left or right of the center bunker to have a go in two requires precision.

The 461-yard par 5 fifteenth stands out for many.  The approach shot is uphill to a long narrow two-tiered green surrounded on three sides by slopes. It requires careful placement of the second shot to have a good approach into this green.

The Smith Signature course is challenging yet fair.  It’s a great balance that maximizes the fun factor.  With tremendous panoramic vistas it’s no wonder it’s a favorite for resort guests.

Explore other Midwest golf course profiles from Quintessential Golf Magazine.

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